Over the last four years I’ve come to love the fact that I live in the Golden State – especially Sonoma County. Between the Pacific Ocean, the amazing weather, the beautiful landscape and the overall socially progressive attitudes of its citizens it’s no wonder that California is the most populated state in the Union.

Of course there’s a major “down side”. The larger population puts an upward pressure on the housing market. Recent surveys have shown that even Californians of annual incomes of $100,000.00 and above despair of ever owning their own home. Rents have skyrocketed in Santa Rosa and the Bay Area which have added to the difficulties faced by families and individuals whose paychecks haven’t kept up with the cost of living. In a move to bring some help to people so affected, the City Council of Santa Rosa voted in favor of establishing controls on rent and evictions within existing legal constraints as one way to approach what amounts to a systemic problem.

Understandably this decision doesn’t play well in all circles and it’s quite reasonable to ask if this is the best solution to a very complicated problem. For example, in its present form, is it fair to all parties concerned, especially landlords? Certainly, many questions can be asked such as “In the various communities where rent control has been enacted, what were the results? Has it created a series of new problems and if so, what are they? What kind of index is appropriate in establishing a fair rental policy?”

What I find most distressing is that recently we’ve seen individuals with clip boards, standing outside local supermarkets or other popular businesses, attempting to collect enough signatures to place a proposition on an upcoming ballot.
* I have no problem with individuals or groups using the political system to protect their personal interests.
* I have no problem with paying “professional” signature collectors to do the job of collecting signatures for a petition.
* I don’t even have a problem with these individuals coming from outside the county to do their job.

What I do have a problem with is the fraudulent way in which these signatures are being collected.

Consider the following:
* The sheet that the person is being asked to sign is titled “Petition to oppose vote taken by the Santa Rosa City Council”. (Please excuse my poor memory if this isn’t the exact wording). One thing I am certain of: it doesn’t mention what the vote was that the City Council took!
* The individuals soliciting the signatures only talk about “putting rent control on the general ballot”. Sometimes they gain the person’s interest by asking them if they are “interested” in rent control. Since this is clearly a major issue for so many people, and given that the people being solicited are in the middle of an errand and distracted, they are led to believe that, by signing the petition, they are supporting rent control.
* There’s no doubt in my mind that if people were given sufficient information, they might well refuse to sign the petition. (In fact I encountered someone signing the petition and once I told them that the City Council had already voted in favor of a move to control rents, they crossed off their signature.)
* To this point I have met at least a half dozen people who shared with me that they have signed the petition thinking that they were signing it in support of rent control.
* I’ve been led to understand that the process, if successful, can delay the implementation of the City Council’s resolution, pending outcome of the ballot.

If you are one of those so affected, there is a way to have your signature removed. Information is provided in the following link, http://northbayop.org/2016/09/12/signature-withdrawal-for-anti-rent-control-petition/ and at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/6070553-181/signers-of-anti-rent-control-petition, that also provides background information.

You might consider informing as many people as you can about this misleading attempt to undermine the City Council’s decision.

If you have the kishkes (“intestinal fortitude”), you might consider engaging the petitioners and confronting them with the issues. (Of course you should be firm but polite, recognizing that in all likelihood it’s just their way to earn a living).

To sum up matters:
* Anyone who opposes legislation such as rent control has the constitutional right as a citizen of a free country to use any legitimate means at their disposal to have the law overturned.
* Using fraudulent means to achieve this purpose undermines whatever valid reasons there are to oppose the legislation!

As it states in Exodus 23:7, “Keep far away from any false matter.”

– Rabbi Mordecai Miller